Awake

It’s half-past five, and she’s beginning to rise.

The sun.

She’s so warm this morning.

The locals, shuffling across their sampans, are sorting through and organizing their fruits, snacks, drinks, and lottery tickets. I watch as the women adjust their nón lá to shield themselves from the waking sun. The men, squatting over the boats to brush their teeth, spit into the river. I hear, faintly, their phlegm smack against the waves.

Smoke rises from a collection of slightly larger vessels. It catches my eye. I look over, and my nostrils instantly meet the smell of grilled pork and shrimp.

Breakfast.

Hủ tiếu.

Cơm tấm.

Bánh mì.

“Hungry?” auntie asks.

“I’m okay, it’s too early to eat.”

“Chị ơi,” she shouts over me, raising herself from our boat. She stands, and our boat leans towards her side. “Cho 2 ly cà phê sữa!”

Peering down at me, she asks, “How about coffee?”

* * *

The waves of the muddy, brown river brush up against our rickety boat.

We sway rhythmically.

I watch closely as the Cái Răng Floating Market comes to life. The river is saturated with many vessels that weave effortlessly between each other, barely touching. Long, wooden poles are planted firmly at the bow, and at the tip of these poles hang an assortment of fruits and vegetables.

“If you’re looking to buy something specific, just look at the poles. They tell you what that boat sells.”

I quickly down my coffee.

It’s too early to be up, but I didn’t want to miss this. Wake up!

As our boat sails along the Delta, I take a moment to appreciate my surroundings. I begin to think about my life, and about my upbringings, my family, my parents, my roots, my culture. I realize that although Vietnamese blood courses through my veins, there is so much I don’t know about my heritage.

In the midst of self-discovery, I hope to find peace and serenity. Knowledge. Memories. Understanding. I pray this year fills the gaps of what has long connected me to the history of my parents.

* * *

She’s wide awake now.

Her rays are beating unapologetically down on us.

She warms the morning air.

I don’t mind.

She’s awake.

* * *

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Sông Cần Thơ Photo Credit: David Thai (2018)

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